“Artificial intelligence is forecasted to have trillions of dollars in annual impact, yet most marketers still struggle to understand what AI is and how to pilot it in their organizations. We are in the infancy of AI adoption as an industry. You and your organization have the opportunity now to be proactive in advancing knowledge and capabilities before your competitors beat you to it.”
So what does this mean for marketers and the future of our jobs — and the industry at large? It means that for some, there is a unique opportunity to be a pioneer at the forefront of this industry-changing movement. For others, they run the risk of being left behind and missing out on the opportunity to take personalization, intelligent automation, and deeper user insights to the next level.
Which type of marketer will you be?
A recap of MAICON 2019
On July 16-18, more than 300 marketers from around the world converged in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first annual Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference (MAICON). From leading product innovators and data architects to early-adopting marketing pros and students, attendees represented academic institutions, startups, and enterprise brands from more than 28 states and 12 countries.
The purpose of the event? To help marketing leaders understand what technologies are available, how to get started, and how to scale AI within their organizations now and in the future.
Designed as a three-day event of interactive workshops, keynotes, and breakout sessions, MAICON provided attendees unique access to leaders in the marketing AI space and a breadth of non-technical information via case studies, strategies, technologies, resources, and actionable insights.
Marketing AI trends
The lineup of industry speakers touched on specific aspects of how AI is currently being applied to marketing, including advertising, analytics, content marketing, email marketing, SEO, and social media.
Here are some of the major themes covered during MAICON 2019:
AI 101 and its application to marketing
Starting with the basics, the content shared by presenters at MAICON laid the groundwork for marketers to understand the basics of what AI, machine learning, and deep learning are, and how these systems read (or “see”) data and continuously “learn” and evolve based on the continuous stream of information being processed.
Speakers also provided practical examples of how AI is currently being applied to marketing — e.g. chatbots, natural language generation (NLG), and predictive analytics — and where it’s going.
If you knew little to nothing about AI previously, this introductory information was perfect for getting attendees excited about the possibilities of how AI can be brought-in house to drive efficiencies and increase the depth of insights your company uses to solve for your end consumers.
Current applications of AI in marketing
From content and email marketing to SEO and research, there are hundreds of companies and products currently applying artificial intelligence to a variety of marketing functions.
Experts spotlighted a handful of these solutions and the innovative pioneers behind them. To help marketers get started, they shared a variety of AI-backed tech solutions currently available in the marketplace, such as Conversica, MarketMuse, PathFactory, Vennli, and more.
AI strategy, processes, and organized data
Integrating AI technology can be a daunting task for a business to tackle. If anyone was unsure of how to get started prior to the conference, MAICON attendees should have walked away with an understanding that the effective adoption of AI starts with building the right strategy, team, and structure to ensure the success of your project.
Multiple speakers shared case studies and tips on lessons learned. Many focused on the importance of defining your goals and establishing clean and organized data — both of which are critical to an AI development and deployment process that will yield results.
Let’s not forget the importance of testing, analyzing, and monitoring the outputs of AI systems once established. It is incredibly important that data analysts, engineers, and marketers oversee AI insights and automated activities in a way that aligns with the larger business goals, brand/tone, and consumer experience.
AI biases and ethics
Many conference discussions centered around the current limitations of AI and the ethics behind how we (read: humans) will and should leverage this technology now and in the future.
AI is only as good as the algorithms and data used.
Experts are aware that current AI technology can unintentionally produce systematic biases due to incorrect assumptions in the machine learning process.
How does this manifest?
One example is that current image recognition from leading companies has greater familiarity with images from western culture and caucasian facial features. Another advertising example showcased how AI bias can perpetuate socioeconomic inequalities by serving up ads based on current user data instead of establishing equal opportunities for all users.
It is our ethical responsibility as marketers, advertisers, and media companies to prevent these biases from making their way into mainstream society and media. Like any tool, AI must be evaluated to make sure it is being used in a way that is ethical, responsible, and fair.
A need for human control and creativity
Speakers continually re-emphasized the need for end-to-end human involvement in marketing. AI isn’t here to replace our jobs as marketers, but rather enhance and increase our capabilities, freeing us up to do what we (as humans) do best — think creatively and through a lens of context.
Those unique capabilities and skills cannot be replicated or replaced by a machine. Instead, we should see AI as a launching pad of opportunity to increase bandwidth for human evolution and growth.
And while MAICON 2019 just wrapped, you can already start planning ahead for next year. Here’s a link to the MAICON 2020 registration page, which will be held July 14-16 at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland.